September 2013


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our mercies and God of all comfort.

2 Corinthians 1: 3

 

In this short verse Paul addresses two things that everyone needs, for I am not aware of a single individual who is immune to the pain, the heartache, and the stresses of living in this world. This place that we call home is flawed, fractured, and is breaking down under the pressures that sin brings to bear every moment of each day. Satan imposes his deceitful logic and evil intentions into our lives in ways that are, at times, subtle and that can strike with the force of a hurricane. All people fall under the spell of evil; thus, we all need the mercy of a loving, gracious, and redemptive God. Everyone is battered and bloodied by this war that we are caught up in the middle of; so, we all cry out for support, encouragement, and comfort. At day’s end all people need to know the true Comforter.

 

Christ is the answer to all of our needs. When we require restoration from the traps that Satan sets for us, the grace of God that flows from Jesus’ wounds and that covers us like fragrant oil takes our broken spirits and places us in the presence of the Father. As we seek to travel through the war zone of life, God’s word provides the wisdom that we need to fight and to survive, and His Spirit is joined with us for every step of the journey. Still it is inevitable that we will be on the receiving end of painful blows. So, Christ is always there to pick us up, to bind up the wounds, and to provide the strength that we need to continue on.

 

Additionally, as we are the recipients of God’s mercy and comfort, we have the opportunity to bless God by being people who bring the same healing touch to our world. The greatest way to experience the presence of the Lord in our lives is to bring His light into the lives of others. We are not called to be vessels that God fills with His love, grace, and mercy for our own sakes; rather, we are called to be agents of Christ who act in His name and who provide care to the wounded souls that litter the war grounds of our world. As we feel pain and suffer wounds, we are experiencing life as Jesus knew it. Then, as we turn our pain and brokenness over to Christ, He heals us and sends us out to share the truth of God’s restorative love with others.

 

As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.

Psalm 42: 1

 

Think about the various and even contradictory images that water can form in your mind. For me there is the very peaceful one of the smooth surface of a mountain lake at dawn, the sense of refreshment that I find in a fast moving stream, the ribbon of beauty and activity that surrounds a river running through the heart of a city, and the perfect thirst relief that is found in a glass of cool water on a hot day. In contrast my mind can quickly recall images of the power, swiftness, and destruction that water shaped into the form of rain storm, hurricane, or typhoon can bring. Yet water is one of the most elementary and primary needs that we all have. It is something that the very cells of our bodies seek after with a sort of fundamental drive.

 

This same sort of deep seated and fundamental drive is found in all people in regards to our need for God. However, this drive to enter into a relationship with God seems to be one of the areas in the hearts and minds of people where Satan works most diligently and consistently to twist and to pervert. We humans can come up with so many answers to this need that they defy imagination. The reasons that people give for rejecting God, for delaying a decision about Him, and for finding him in various alternative forms are all false ways that they have found to answer this basic calling of their hearts. God speaks to everyone, but only some recognize truth and answer by drinking deeply from His spring of life, the living water who is Jesus.

 

When my soul is feeling the thirst that comes from eating the dust that is kicked up during the contest and the hard work of the day, I need to turn to the refreshing stream of life that is found readily at hand in the presence of the Lord. He invites all to drink deeply and be filled. There is no reason to worry about depleting this reservoir, for it is deeper and wider than all of Creation. Then, when I am filled, I should turn to my neighbor and offer to share the drink. There is no other beverage that satisfies, and there is nothing else that answers this soul-deep need that all people have. So, as we know Jesus, we know the answer to our neighbor’s thirst.

 

Of the Son, God, the Father, says,

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

Hebrews 1: 8 (quoting Psalm 45: 6)

 

We people make decisions about allegiances and memberships all of the time. We join a group that looks like it has common goals and values to us, or we pay the fee and gain admittance into a society that promises to provide us with certain things that we desire to have. Some of these affiliations and relationships are long lasting and some have very short lives; yet, most of us put a significant amount of energy into the process of selecting them and into maintaining them. Still, all of these human connections will suffer from imperfection and instances of failure, and we will wind up abandoning many of them.

 

Here God is pointing the way to entering into the one and the only truly permanent relationship that exists in the universe. God is telling us that Jesus is the ruler of Creation, that His reign has always existed, and that it will never stop. If I want to find consistency, truth, and real durability in this life; then I need to start with the foundation from which all of these things are built. Jesus brings the understanding and the wisdom of eternity to my weak and wandering heart and mind, and He also has the authority, the power, and the desire to actually cause my world to change.

 

Before I sign one more membership application, pledge my loyalty to any other group, or commit to a new affiliation; it would be good to be certain that everything that I am doing fits into Christ’s plan for working through me to redeem this world. He rules the world with righteousness, and He wants all of His people to bring that righteousness with us into every minute of our days. To follow Jesus is to follow the only ruler who will absolutely still be reigning over all at the end of the day. To follow Jesus is to join Eternity’s select group.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

This is a truth statement about you and about me and about everyone who knows God; for a relationship with the Creator involves a total change in all of our core forms of identity and expands our connections and affinities by an unimaginably large factor. As we are in Christ, we are also included in this very select but substantial family that occupies God’s household; thus, we are among a group of people that God has committed to love and to protect despite our lack of worth or our unloveliness.

 

When the Lord possesses a person, He doesn’t just grab us and hold us captive. Rather, He wins us over by showing us that He has a love for us that penetrates to the depths of our need and that His love is the only truly unconditional and unchanging one that exists. As we allow the Lord to possess our hearts and our minds, His Spirit works on them to transform us into people who also understand God’s will and who act out of righteous love. It is a part of our human nature to fight back against God’s possession, to hold on to parts of our old ways of viewing life and of living it, but darkness tends to fill these areas where we hold back.

 

One of the best things that we can do to eliminate these dark corners from our hearts is to express our praise for the Lord. This needs to become a daily part of how we live until it is an important part of who we are. Consider the goodness that Christ brings into your life, read of God’s mercy and grace in His word, thank Him for the ways that He has touched the lives of those around you, and develop your own thoughts of the ways that God’s presence infuses your world. Then, start to talk with Him about it. As you let God know how much you notice and value who and what He is to you, He will speak these same truths back to your heart in ways that will make them even clearer and more understandable. The best way to fill your day with light is to continually speak praise for God from your heart. As you do this, He will shine the warming light of peace, joy, and freedom onto every step of your path.

 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13, 14

 

Although it is really easy to get caught up in the contemplative aspects of connecting with God through prayer and meditation, it is important to take what we learn in this manner and to put feet onto it throughout our day. These words are filled with the action of a life lived in a close relationship with Christ. Faith is not something that we hold quietly inside. It is not a passive quality of our lives as Christians. It is the fuel of the words and the actions that are the substance of what we do and of how we are perceived each day. Faith in the God that we have come to know and who knows us deeply, who made us to fulfill the life purpose that we are faced with each day, this is the faith that provides the strength and that opens our hearts and our minds to the ways that the Lord will use us this day.

 

We are to continually look for and to be attuned to the needs of others, and we should seek out opportunities to speak and to act in the name of Christ. We are also to be alert for the satanic attacks that will go with a life lived for Him. It is important to prepare to stand up for what we believe. Sometimes this is in words, more often it is in the actions that we take and in the way that we treat others. This takes courage and strength. We may be required to do and to say things that the world around us will look at as irrational or just plain dumb. We still need to be ready to do it; for, we need to be ready to set aside the rational processes of considering our personal risk and be willing to let the Holy Spirit take charge of the moment. As the famous add campaign says, “Just Do It!”.

 

One final thing to consider, action can be very powerful and a bit addicting. We can get caught up in the adrenalin rush that comes from our desire to live fully for Christ; therefore, the final instruction here is that we should do everything with one, singular and overarching motive. Faith tells us that we can trust God’s love for us as his primary motive in relating to us. Perhaps the most courageous quality that we are called upon by God to employ in our daily living for Him is that of love. Faith gives us the strength that is needed to drop the sword that we naturally want to let lead our way through life and to open our hands and our arms in order to embrace the lost and the hurting people that Christ will place into our paths.

 

And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seem the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6: 5-7

 

It is not hard for Christians to find sin in our world. It is all around us. Unrighteous thoughts and actions fill out news and impact our lives on a continual basis. Inside of our halls of faith gathering we talk with our friends and acquaintances about the sad and disturbing direction that our world, our government, and our culture are headed. The trajectory of society seems to be pointed straight toward hell, or so we would say. This is exactly what Isaiah encountered as well. Perhaps we should listen to what he tells us God said and did to him.

 

As the prophet became increasingly aware of the evil that was filling his world, God turned his focus inward. There Isaiah saw something that was even more disturbing than what was going on in his land. For inside his own heart Isaiah encountered anger, lust, greed, stubborn pride, and all of the rest of Creation’s fallen condition. These were the very things that were bringing him to tears for his nation and were raising up his anger at the injustice in his world. Yet, now he was seeing it all dwelling in himself, and now, in his Spirit led introspection, Isaiah saw just how far removed he was from the holiness and the righteousness of God. This was a sobering and a humbling truth to face for him, and it should be the same for us.

 

As we look at our world and seek to enter into its chaotic lostness for the sake of Christ and His gospel, we need to start our quest on our knees in repentance for our own sinful thoughts and deeds. I am not pure, and no one else is, either. We are sinners who rely on the same grace that granted acceptance to Isaiah. Like him we need the atonement for those sins that comes from God through Jesus Christ. Yet this is God’s gift to all who will turn to Him. We are cleansed, our lips and our hearts are seared clean by the work of Christ on the cross and we are called to draw near to that altar of grace so that the holy fragrance of God will surround us as we follow Christ into serving Him in our world.   

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5

 

Our minds are amazing things, for they are capable of solving complex problems, of grasping difficult concepts, and of creating great beauty. Yet, they are also very easily lead down destructive and harmful paths. This is often the way that Satan goes after us. For he slips a bit of slightly wrong thinking into the rational patterns of our minds, and he works his way into the smallest point of weakness that we allow to form in our spiritual lives. Then, those toe holds of deception start to grow and to develop into serious areas in our lives where God’s truth and His gracious love are overshadowed by deception.

 

Yet, there is real hope in all of this; since, Christ wants to join us in the fight against this very sort of wrong thinking, and He has already provided the answers that we need and the source for finding all of the wisdom that we will require to face life’s challenges. God wants us to take everything that we are thinking about, all actions that we are considering, and each aspect of our days and check our reason and logic against His Word. That means that we need to stay consistently engaged with the Lord through prayer, reading of His Word, and by listening to His responses to us.

 

There is nothing that is too small or insignificant, there is nothing that is too large or complex, and there is no issue that is too contemporary for the Lord to be interested in and capable of responding to. All that we do and every thought that we have fits into God’s design for righteous living. However, we do need to plan and to purpose to surrender our will and to seek God’s wisdom regularly, continually, and in all circumstances. Every thought that crosses my mind needs to be surrounded by the perfect circle of love that is the protective boundary of Christ’s relationship with me.

 

How can you believe when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God.

John 5: 44

 

Jesus is questioning how far we will go and what we would be willing to do in order to gain recognition, fame, and glory. We live in a culture that is constantly elevating individuals to places of notoriety and that seeks to find people who have accomplished something special or who have achieved something that sets them apart from the pack. However, the problem that we have in all of this is that we seem to have such an insatiable thirst for vicariously viewing the activities of these celebrities that behaviors that are noteworthy only for their stupidity, harmfulness, or lack of righteousness are too often the ones that gain recognition. The other element of this thirst for prominence that was troubling to Jesus and that should disturb us is that people, in general, will gravitate toward sources of easy praise and will set standards of behavior for themselves that are intended to gain it.

 

Sadly, we humans will settle for the dim light of this sort of recognition when a radiance like the sun could be ours. There is only one source of true light, for it comes from the Creator of all lights. Also, real, lasting glory is the reflection of the character of God, Himself. Since God wants to be with us and to engage with us in our lives, and He works in our hearts and minds to transform us from being darkened by the stain of sin and its death to being radiantly alive in Christ, we have access to the glory of God.

 

The question that Jesus posed and that we should be asking ourselves is why do I seek the praises of people and compromise God’s standards for living righteously when I already have the gift of recognition from the great and generous Father? God continually pours out His blessings onto His children, they rain down like an unending stream of brightly colored confetti, and the Lord celebrates each and every moment that we choose to follow Him and bring light into our world. Let’s take the glory of Christ into the darkness that is trying to surround us so that we can share our knowledge of it’s one and only source with people who desperately are in need of something to celebrate and of someone who will lovingly care for their needs.

So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the Lord your God; for He has given you the autumn rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the autumn and the spring rain as before.

Joel 2: 23

 

The tangible start of the fall season is marked by a very noticeable decrease in the number of hours of sunlight and by changes in the weather. Temperatures become dramatically cooler and the rains come as if they are intended to wash the dead leaves from the trees. God gave the prophet Joel a vision that clearly indicated that the rains were the Lord’s gift to His people, and in that vision it was made clear that even the timing of that rain was something that God managed and designed as a small part of His very intricate plan for this world. The fall rains come and they surround the roots of plants and the in ground seeds with the moisture that they will need to sustain them through the winter. Then, in the spring, the rain comes at a time when new life is ready to respond to the warmth of the sun.

 

The Lord has a well crafted plan, and He is never quiet or uninvolved in its execution. Just as God does with the rain for the earth, Christ does for each of His people. He delivers each and every thing that we need to sustain us at the place in life where we are, and He also provides the deep nourishment that we will need in the future. Christ feeds the soul with His love, grace, mercy, and understanding so that we can grow in our own capacity to respond to life with these same qualities. His perfectly timed rain brings about growth that matches the season that each of us is experiencing.

 

My heart sings with the joy of the certainty of knowing that Christ will pour out His loving rain onto my head today, and I rejoice daily in being soaked in the presence of His Spirit. Christ saves my soul, and He preserves my spirit from the daily assaults that evil launches. The Lord gives me the strength to grow and to stand upright despite the forces of this natural world that rage against me. He plants me deeply in the rich soil of His word so that Christ’s glory is revealed through the fruit of my life.

 

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